1950 Explosion

Explosion Kills 8; Hear Explosion For 10 Miles; Rocks Houses
Victims Blown To Bits As Dynamite Lets Go In Big Steel Building
September 12, 1950 - Eldred, PA - Tragedy stalked into the very heart of Eldred, snuffing out the lives of two local residents and causing heartfelt grief to more families around the vicinity. At 9:35 a.m., Tuesday morning, the dynamite blast ripped through the mix house, completely demolishing it and badly damaging nearby buildings. Four additional employees were injured and treated at the scene as guards kept newsmen and photographers away from the blast area.
Blast Heard 10 Miles
Area residents ten miles away heard the booming explosion. Windows were shattered within a two mile radius. Everybody knew almost at once what had happened. The little community of 1,200 people is every conscious of the powder plant danger. Within minutes highways leading to the company property, about one mile north of town, were clogged with traffic. At the time, National Powder was the largest industry in town employing sixty-five persons. John McCord, of Duke Center, was sitting in the Sandwich Shop in town, sipping a cup of coffee when the blast rocked the town. "The patrons thought the windows would be pushed in and they moved quickly away," he said. "The windows didn't break but they sure did shudder for a few seconds. People began pouring into the main street and within a matter of seconds the cars leading to the plant were bumper to bumper.
The Eldred Fire Department and ambulance responded and remained at the plant throughout the day. Dr. Fred Gabriel administered first aid to the injured. Ambulances from Kane, Port Allegany, Portville and Olean, NY, also responded. Coroner Beatty of Bradford conducted the investigation and released the names of the dead by Tuesday afternoon.
People Became Hysterical
Employees at the Artline Corporation, a furniture manufacturer plant across the valley from the scene, reported windows broken in the plant. "Sawdust was kicked up like a swirling snow storm and people got hysterical. We put our hands over our heads because we thought the walls were going to cave in," said one employee. Some of the victims were blown to bits as the blast destroyed the steel structure where ingredients are mixed in the production of dynamite. Tearfaced relatives and friends stood silently along the highway and near the company offices as Pennsylvania State Police, Coroner Beatty and undertakers began the grim task of combing the ruins for bodies for identification, which took hours. It was reported that body parts were found in the trees around the blast area.

The "Mix House" that exploded on September 12, 1950.

An inside view of the mix house.
The National Powder Dead

James M. Silvis
Born 1920
Residence: Eldred

Mr. Silvis was killed on his son Jimmy's third birthday. His wife Joyce was just finishing baking a cake for their son when the explosion rocked their house.

James was born in Bradford and moved to Eldred in 1943. He was employed by National Powder for seven years and an assistant manager at the plant.

He was survived by his wife, three daughters; Jean, Rosemary and Arlene; One son, James, Jr.

James Silvis is buried in Eldred.

Eugene W. Shepherd
Born 1926
Residence: Eldred

Mr. Shepherd was born in Falconer, NY, and lived most of his life in Eldred. He was employed by National Powder three years.

He was survived by his wife Romayne Smith and a step daughter Margaret Ann.

Gene Shepherd is buried at Lamphier Cemetery, Eldred.

Robert J. Walker
Born 1910
Residence: Duke Center

Mr. Walker was born in Duke Center and employed by National Powder for five weeks prior to the explosion.

He was survived by his wife Hazel, a daughter, Mary Joan and a son, Robert Eugene

Robert Walker is buried in Duke Center Cemetery.

Harry Nelson
Born 1892
Residence: Duke Center

Mr. Nelson was born in Cherry Grove, PA, and resided in Duke Center for 33 years. He was employed by National Powder for 15 years as a stationary engineer.

He was a veteran of World War I and survived by his wife Esther and a daughter Martha Jean.

Harry Nelson is buried at McKean Memorial Park in Lafayette Twp.

Carl A. Fitzgerald
Born 1920
Residence: Duke Center

Mr. Fitzgerald was born in Mayburg, PA, and graduated Kane High School in 1938. He was employed several years by National Powder as an electrician with their maintenance group.

He was a veteran of World War II, participating in the Normandy Invasion and Battle of the Bulge. He was survived by his wife Nellie, a twin brother Charles, of Buffalo and sister Madeline Anderson of Kane.

Carl Fitzgerald is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Kane.

Charles H. "Bud" York
Born 1928
Residence: Duke Center

Mr. York was born in Oil City, PA, and employed by National Powder three months.

He was a veteran of the Navy from 1945 to 1949 and survived by his wife Ruth (Irons) of Duke Center.

Charles York is buried at McKean Memorial Park in Lafayette Township.

Earl T. Logue
Born 1924
Residence: Austin

Mr. Logue was born in Costello, PA, and employed by National Powder for three years.

He was a veteran of World War II in Europe and awarded the Purple Heart. He was survived by his wife Betty and son Richard.

Earl Logue is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Kane.

Cooley A. Sherwood
Born 1916
Residence: Shinglehouse

Mr. Sherwood was born in Shinglehouse and employed by National Powder only a few weeks.

He was an Army veteran of World War II in Europe and survived by his wife Elizabeth and one son, William, two daughters, Alice and Gloria.

Cooley Sherwood is buried at Maple Grove Cemetery in Shinglehouse.